At ProBikeKit we’ve got a special blog entry for you this week: our very own Anna Ashbarry travelled across the globe to China to take part in Cycle China to raise money for three very special causes. In her own words, here’s her story:
Action For Charity is a UK based charity which raises funds for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Ovarian Cancer Action and Breast Cancer Care. The three charities combined are called ‘Women V Cancer’. My Mother is now 7 years clear of cancer after fighting breast cancer back in 2007, and we both decided to sign up for Cycle China 2014 in February this year, which did not leave us much time to train and raise all of the funds.
After my Mothers company very kindly paid the costs, we had to raise £1700 each and get fit enough to cycle 60 miles a day for 5 days across Beijing, China! This took a lot of commitment, time and effort. Cycling and fundraising took over our lives for the past 7 months, but it was all worth it in the end. Here’s how it went down:
Cycle China Diary – Day 1
After a long and uncomfortable ten hour overnight flight, we arrived in Beijing China, where we were faced with our first experience of smog. Apparently the smog is worse in September due to the season and the time of the year. We then had a 2 hour coach journey through the Beijing countryside, where we unfortunately couldn’t see much out of our windows apart from what was just a few feet in front of us.
We later arrived at our first destination, a guest house on The Great Wall of China – Huang Ya Guan. This was a stunning location and a perfect place to start the challenge. Here we met the rest of the 99 women and 8 staff taking part in the challenge. AT 19 I was the youngest, and the oldest lady cycling was 67 years old! It was fantastic meeting women of all ages and backgrounds coming together to fight the three biggest cancers that kill women in the UK.
After meeting our bikes and fitting our saddles and pedals, we had dinner,this was our first experience of Chinese food that wasn’t from our local take away. It was very different to what we get in the UK but also quite similar and very interesting. We then heard news that a music festival was taking place at the very same location that night, which is just what we all needed after our ten hour flight! It got worse when we discovered campers sleeping on the gardens of our courtyard. It was not the best start to our challenge as we barley got a wink of sleep with all of the loud music, drunk travellers and flashing lights!
Cycle China Diary – Day 2
After breakfast (eating the same thing as the night before, boiled rice and some interesting looking meat) we all set off on our bikes to start our first day of cycling. This day was a flat cycle around a lake allowing us to get used to the mountain bikes provided, the heat, riding in such a big group and the crazy Chinese traffic. It was wonderful cycling through all the little Chinese villages and seeing things that you would never normally see if you came on a regular holiday to Beijing.
The locals were fascinated by us, 109 British cyclists dressed in mainly pink, cycling through their towns and villages. The roads were full of all sorts of vehicles which couldn’t wait to overtake us, and it seemed like they didn’t care what they had to do to achieve this!
Today was the first day we were faced with Chinese toilets. Without going into too much detail, a cubical with a hole in the floor. After a long day cycling, squatting over this hole was rather hard on the legs! When we arrived at our next hotel which had a real bathroom, we were all very grateful for an actual toilet. It’s amazing what you take for granted at home!
Cycle China Diary – Day 3
This was the first of three very hard days of cycling. This day was the longest mileage at 63.5 miles. It’s hard to find the energy to even think about three days of hill riding when all you have been eating for the past few days is rice and meat dishes, (it’s even harder when you find out one of the dishes you just ate contains intestines!) However, we all pulled together and cheered each other on throughout the day.
As it had rained the night before, the smog had cleared so it was a beautiful day. The hills turned out to be mountain climbs and we climbed 4200 feet. As they were gradual climbs, I found myself enjoying them thinking of what I was achieving. Our stop for lunch was my first experience of fame. I actually felt famous getting my picture taken so many times by lots of Chinese people, I am blonde and a good few inches taller than the majority of the Chinese population and so they were very interested in me, little did I know this was just the beginning of a lot more attention to come!
Cycle China Diary – Day 4
Today we climbed around 4000 feet. It got up to 30 degrees and the mountain climbs felt tougher than the previous day, even though the climbs were not as high. The road surface in China was lovely to cycle on, in the bigger towns and villages there are very comfortable and wide cycle lanes which are also used by motorcycles, tractors and pedestrians, which makes it just as crazy as cycling on a road!
In the past 5 years, China has changed so much in terms of development, instead of local villagers transporting their farm goods by donkeys, they now use little moped scooters. None of the villagers passed a test to use these or read a highway code, so it’s rather amusing watching them drive in any direction they fancy. The views at the top of the mountain climbs made our efforts completely worth it. At some peaks we could see The Great Wall of China in the distance. We also cycled through some fast developing parts of China which are more modern yet still very Chinese. The developed parts of China have not been westernised, and it is great to see China still keeping its culture.
Cycle China Diary – Day 5
This was our last day of hills and mountainous climbs, and we were all very sore, tired and hungry at this point. We climbed up to 5700 feet, these were the hardest and highest hills of the week. The down hills on the other side of the mountains were definitely the highlight of the day. This was the last time we would cycle through the ancient valleys of China.
After lunch we cycled on flat land through bustling market towns where local farmers gathered to sell their fresh produce. Here we faced grid-lock on the roads. In the middle of the open countryside on the wide empty roads there was total gridlock, there was no need for this and it was amusing to sneak our way through with our bikes. As the local people drive where ever they like, it eventually all builds up after a while and creates complete carnage! It was a great experience nevertheless.
We arrived at our hotel a few minutes later, and by the word hotel you probably think we were staying in luxury rooms – far from it, as over the 8 day trip some ladies unfortunately faced bed bugs and mice!
Cycle China Diary – Day 6
Today we cycled through a more built up area, where modern sky scrapers and smooth roads symbolised the rapid growth and development of China. We were faced with busier roads and a lot more traffic, and so this day took more concentration when cycling in such a big group, due to the large junctions where no one stops for red lights.
Here I managed to cross a junction and cycle on the wrong side of the road! In the UK this would put me in great danger, but in China I blended in with the locals! We passed the Olympic gardens and saw some beautiful city scenes. Our last few miles of the day lead up to The Great Wall of China at Badaling. This was a great place to finish our challenging 5 days of cycling. It was a tough last mile as it was very steep and cobbled path ways led up to the wall. Once we reached the top, we received our medals and celebrated with some odd tasting fizzy red wine!
We then had a 2 hour coach journey back into the main city of Beijing, to a hotel where our final celebrations would take place. But before this took place, we went for a Chinese massage. This was a hilarious experience as a few of us sat in a room together whilst Chinese ladies who spoke no English massaged our feet, legs and back. By massage I mean getting beat up! I have no idea where they get their strength from, but the knots and tension were punched out of our muscles. It was a painful and funny experience to share with friends but we did end up feeling quite relaxed towards the end.
The next day & an exploration!
After a night of celebrating what we had achieved, the next day we had a free day to explore the sights of China, including the Forbidden City, the summer palace and Tiananmen square. We experienced how over crowded China was and we could barley sight see as there were so many people in the way!
Overall, the ‘Cylce China ladies’ raised a huge £400,000 for Women V Cancer. This money will go towards research and treatment for each of the three charities. It was a hard 5 days which were painful and tiring, but it was all worth the money we raised for cancer. We had highs and lows, injuries and tears, but it was the best experience of my life! I met some amazing and inspiring women and I am so proud that I cycled every single mile of cycle China 2014! China is a fascinating country, and I’m pleased I cycled through it as I saw things I would have never seen otherwise. I thank everyone for all the support and donations, and I hope that I have made everyone proud!
– I am still fundraising on my Just Giving page for the next few weeks to try and get the funds to half a million all together! Please see the link below to help me out:
P.s I will not be getting a Chinese take-out for a least a year! There’s only so much rice you can eat before you become sick of it!
Check out Anna’s video here:
If you’ve been inspired by Anna’s story, and fancy setting up a cycling challenge of your own – or maybe you’re already doing one! – let us know in the comments section below!